Colorful plants make a beautiful addition to your holiday d√©cor. Here’s how to care for five seasonal favorites.
Poinsettia. These festive beauties need indirect light, warm temperatures during the day, and, ideally, a nighttime temperature of about 55 degrees. With proper care, the colorful flowers, which actually are modified leaves, can last until Valentine’s Day. Fertilize monthly after blooming. It’s tricky to coax poinsettias to bloom a second time, so enjoy them as green plants after the holidays, or compost them.
Paperwhite Narcissus. Fragrant paperwhites are easily grown in water. Place 2 inches of pebbles in a vase, and pack with bulbs, pointed ends up. Add water to just below the bottom of the bulbs. Keep bulbs cool—50 to 60 degrees—and add water as needed. When roots appear, move to a sunny window. Use small branches or bamboo skewers to stake the tall leaves and flower stalks. These inexpensive plants bloom only once indoors.
Amaryllis. Showy amaryllis bulbs often are sold prepotted. But you can plant your own in potting mix, leaving the top one-third of the bulb exposed. Water when the mix feels dry, and keep near a sunny window. Amaryllis need lots of care to rebloom, so most people buy new bulbs each year.
Christmas cactus. These undemanding plants like indirect light. Let the top inch of soil dry between waterings, and avoid drafts. Next fall, to encourage blooming in time for the holidays, keep the plant in total darkness 12 hours nightly for six to eight weeks, or until flower buds appear.
Norfolk Island pine. Decorate these tropical evergreens like miniature Christmas trees, and after the holidays use them as attractive houseplants. When kept out of direct sunlight, they thrive in average home temperatures. Fertilize every three to four months, and don’t let their roots stand in water.